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Holes in clothes after washing

Holes-in-jeans There appears to be a problem with many washing machines routinely “causing” small holes in laundry. Judging from the correspondence I’ve received so far it is happening to a lot of people, with different makes of washing machine and with various drum sizes and spin speeds. Therefore, finding a pattern and identifying a definite cause is proving difficult. However, almost everyone is blaming the washing machine. This article has attracted 298 comments before being closed and they indicate that many of the holes may not be caused by the washing machine after all, though washing machines can clearly cause holes in laundry.

What’s causing holes in clothes?

Clues There is no one simple answer to the cause of holes in clothes but a detailed look at this article and its comments may help. It may be necessary to try and work out the cause by process of elimination and looking for clues. It’s not as simple as just blaming the washing machine. The people having problems are finding holes routinely appearing in denim skirts & shirts, cotton shirts, t-shirts, sheets, dresses, corduroy skirts etc. so the problem doesn’t seem to be confined to one type of laundry.

Why do manufacturers always blame the customers?

Up to now, the people who have complained to their washing machine manufacturer have all been told the same thing. They’ve been told the fault lies with themselves and that they are spinning certain items too fast.

In my experience, whenever there is a manufacturing defect in a washing machine resulting in either damage to clothes or persistent breakdown of the washing machine itself, manufactures usually do blame the customer at first. This is sometimes due to a natural caution and fear of opening the floodgates of compensation claims, but it’s often simply that many faults are caused by customers either misusing the machines or not reading instruction books properly so they are naturally the first suspects. It also often takes a long time for certain problems and their causes to become apparent and recognised by a big organisation.

At this stage it is unclear whether or not there is a problem with the design or quality of some washing machine drums and tubs that could account for lots of small holes in laundry. However, it makes sense for anyone getting holes in their laundry on a regular basis to make absolutely sure that they are not inadvertently causing the problem themselves before pursuing a manufacturer or the seller of the appliance.

Make sure you are not inadvertently causing the holes in clothes

If you are experiencing regular random holes in your washing you need to check that you are not washing items on wash programmes with a final spin speed that’s too fast for them. This is the explanation some manufacturers have given to customers who complained about holes in washing.

If you know you are definitely using the washing machine correctly then at least you can say with confidence that the manufacturer, or their engineer is wrong if they try to blame incorrect spin speeds for the damage.

To help you decide you really should check out the instruction book but here is a rough guide from my Miele 1400 rpm spin washing machine operating instructions which has a 6kg drum. Different manufacturers and different models of washing machine may vary but this chart shows that certain items should not be spun at full spin speed –

  • Cottons: 1400 rpm
  • Minimum iron: 1200 rpm
  • Delicates: 600 rpm
  • Woollens: 1200 rpm
  • Silks: 400 rpm
  • Shirts: 600 rpm
  • Denim: 900 rpm

Make sure you aren’t overloading

Many people don’t realise that different types of laundry have different wash load capacities and that exceeding them amounts to overloading. In most cases the consequences are more likely to be reduced wash efficiency but if you put a full load of denim, or shirts on a wash programme that does the maximum spin then the manufacturer could claim some may get damaged.

Here is a link to a previous article showing the maximum recommended loads for certain fabrics (again, consult your washing machine’s instruction book because the load sizes will vary amongst manufacturers and models – especially models with larger or smaller drum capacities) Laundry comes out of washing machine badly creased?

Other possible causes of holes

Bra wire (or underwires)

Bra Bra wires are an extremely common problem with washing machines. Many of them (especially from cheaper bras) escape during the wash and get trapped under the drum. Commonly you will hear a gentle metallic scraping noise as the drum turns but depending where it settles it may not make any noise at all. The ends of bra wires can be sharp, especially if they break. As the clothes are forced through the small holes in the drum (particularly cottons) during spin they can snag on the underwire and cause damage to the laundry.

If underwires from a bra are removable they should always be removed before washing. I’m sure many of them are supposed to be hand washed only! Here’s an article I’ve published about washing nets designed specifically to protect a bra in the washing machine – Bra washing nets

Other obstructions in the tub, a damaged drum, loose drum lifter etc.

Pound-coin Coins and other metallic obstructions commonly cause problems with washing machines. They can damage the drum or loosen and break the plastic drum lifter (paddles) leaving a small hole or gap where laundry can snag. Carefully examine the drum for dints or even tears, maybe an elongated drum hole that now has a sharp edge. TIP: Try using a nylon stocking stretched over a hand to feel all the way round a drum and paddles to see if anything snags.

Drum-lifter Check none of the drum lifters or paddles are damaged or loose revealing a hole with sharp edges. If you have a loose or broken drum paddle (lifter) it can cause damage to clothes. You may be able to buy a replacement for your washing machine on 4Washerhelp Drum paddles (or lifters)

Zips and buckles

As a precaution try turning garments with zips inside out after zipping up the zipper. Watch out for garments that have metal buttons or buckles. Also try placing delicate laundry in net wash bags.

Biological detergents could damage woollens and silks

I’ve just written another related article describing how some holes in clothing could be caused by using biological detergent. This issue is only related to silks and woollens though – Biological washing machine detergents can damage woollens and silks causing holes

Bleach

Undiluted bleach should not be used in a washing machine. It’s corrosive. Even dilute bleach can weaken laundry. Read the label carefully before using.

Deodorant

Chris (who used to work for a cosmetics company) added a comment to this article suggesting deodorant can damage the fibres on laundry and he could be on to something especially as many people spray across their front whilst wearing a top these days – Comment #113 on deodorant and damage to laundry

Research this topic further by reading the topic started on my washing machine forum where several different people have contributed – Small Holes In Clothes After Wash: My washing machine is slowly eating my clothes NOTE: The forum is currently read-only. If you have anything to contribute to this topic please leave a comment here or ( Contact me ).

UPDATE:

Photos of damaged laundry

I’ve written another article on this subject here Holes in clothes from washing machines which summarises the situation so far and links to photo evidence sent in to me – Holes in clothes photos

If tiny holes are appearing only in t-shirts at the front

Shirts-coloured This can be caused by physical wear caused by rubbing against jeans, belts, and even kitchen worktops whilst working in the kitchen. For further details see the many comments below this article. Several people have identified their holes in the front lower half of t-shirts as being caused by rubbing against the kitchen worktop. Granite worktops are particularly implicated.

Jeff suggested a great experiment in comment number 222 which should prove whether the small holes in t shirts are caused by the washing machine or by the wearer.

Protect t shirts and other laundry when washing

washing nets (from 4washerhelp spares site)

“Helps prolong life of clothes, and prevents wear and tear from friction”.

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Comments

  1. Damianmkvs, the manufacturer not being interested because it’s now out of warranty is understandable. They would be interested if they thought it was possible the fault could lie with them and their washing machine but clearly (at this stage at least) they don’t. However, this doesn’t affect your statutory rights and it is the company you bought the washing machine from that you have a complaint with in UK consumer law – not the manufacturer.

    The big problem is of course that you can’t be 100% certain that the fault is with the washing machine although I understand why you would strongly suspect it is. You would have to take the seller to the small claims court where a judge would decide. There is plenty of consumer advice on my main Washerhelp site including a link to instigate a small claim online Consumer advice – washing machines

    This article is meant to not only highlight the issue, but to try to eliminate the possibility that the holes are caused by user error, which is why I mention the maximum loading and maximum spin speeds for certain types of laundry. Anyone affected needs to make sure they aren’t spinning certain types of laundry at inappropriate speeds.

    However, the experience of damianmkv (and one or two others on my washing machine forum) is that the damage to laundry is happening mostly on cotton T-shirts and other cotton items. Cotton is virtually the only type of laundry that can be spun at full speed. If this is the case then the manufacturer’s theory that it is users spinning items too fast doesn’t hold water. People have also reported damage even when spinning items as low as 900 rpm.

    If the damage to clothing is lots of small holes that match the pattern in the drum it would strongly imply that it is caused by the fabric being forced through the holes of the drum. If you are experiencing this problem with cottons – that should be spun at full speed then it’s hard to blame anything but the washing machine. If on the other hand the damage is more like snagging, or threads being pulled it could be because it’s catching on something.

    I am still collecting data and experiences on this subject. I’m interested to know how many people affected have larger than 5Kg drums.

    Anyone affected should add a comment. Please make sure you’ve read the explanations of possible causes to ensure that you aren’t inadvertently causing the problem by one of the several known user causes. Please state -

    • The drum capacity
    • The top spin speed
    • Is it a washing machine or a washer dryer?
    • The type of laundry affected – then describe as accurately as possible the exact nature of the damage
    • The detergent used
  2. avatar damianmkv says:

    Thanks for your reply, Andy. As far as I am concerned, it is definately the washing machine – last week we washed my son’s new school uniform ( he has never worn it before as he starts in September ). The T-shirt came out with a hole in it. The same with a T-shirt that was mine – the holes are around 2 mm in diameter.

    We have tried all combinations to eliminate the problem – lower spin speeds, less washing in the machine but all to no avail. We still get holes. Generally there is only 1 hole per item, but very occasionally there are 2.

  3. Hello Damian. In that case you need to channel your complaints to the people you bought it from as they are the ones responsible in UK consumer law. I would also contact Watchdog (I may approach them myself soon) to see if they are receiving other complaints. Finally I would take advice from the consumer groups (links on my consumer advice section).

  4. Forget the washing machine theory – My son bought a tee shirt wore it once and before he even put it in the wash it had holes –
    I have also had many tee shirts destroyed by these holes and the holes are usually on the bottom of the shirt and in group of about three – ( They are near where the zipper or belt would be – but I know there was no belt worn and the zippers are not able to snag it either –
    So now what !

  5. avatar Susie Hayward says:

    I have had this problem for nearly two years, small holes at waist level in fine cotton tshirts and jersey items lyocell and other syntheticsalso, always a small circle of several small holes. It started in my teenage daughters tops from GAP mostly, then spread to mine and my other teenage daughter, we have eliminated the washing machine, detergent, way of drying, etc. From looking on the web I think it is caused be carpet beetle larvae. At the present time we have about forty tops with holes in, some have not even made it into the wash they are brand new, they will be worn and then later the holes appear when you examine them the next day. Antoher theory is that the fabrics are contaminated with larvae in China and the clothes are made up and sold to us with larvae in them with only shows after a short time.

  6. I have been having this problem and believe its linked to wearing a belt in my case however if others are having this problem without wearing belts then Im at a loss?

  7. I am having this problem as well, the holes are not limited to the bottom of the garment and has happened only in t-shirts and t-shirt like material. Several of my daughters brand new (washed once or twice) Hollister shirts are ruined. I do not think the dryer is causing this and I have seen no moths. I do not dry mine or my husbands shirts and they have been effected as well. I am so upset by this, I wish I knew what to do. Anyone know who I could show the damage to that would know the cause?

  8. I am experiencing the same problem with a 6Kg 1200 rpm. The washer drier is about 5 years old and only now started chewing up the laundry. I have checked the inside and all feel fine. I don’t think is caused by the punched holes in the drums as this would became apparent from new and not after 5 years service. This sounds like a common problem with many washing machines and I suspect that manufactures are not trying to resolve this problem in order to sell more.

  9. avatar Diane Charlesworth says:

    I have had this washer 5 yrs and never had a problem until 6mths.ago.do you think i need a new washer..? most maufacturers would say YES. Dont you think its really strange or should i say convenient this is happening to a lot of peoples clothes…is it a way of making us all buy a new washer?..i think so . we need watchdog involved..Its a good job people can buy modern clothes with holes already in.

  10. It’s interesting that a couple of people have only recently started getting this problem after five years. If it was a design fault in the washing machine or washer dryer you’d expect the problem to be present from the start.

    Holes in laundry suddenly starting after about five years could be caused by something that has become subject to wear though. For example drum bearings giving a little and allowing the drum slightly closer to the heating element and tub during spin, or the door seal gap increasing allowing items to get trapped between it and the revolving drum.

    Ironically, since writing these articles I have noticed that quite a few of my own cotton laundry has holes in it. The items affected are cotton underwear and cotton socks. Lots of my own socks have holes in them, in the heel and round the toes. However, I have always assumed these holes have been caused by sharp toenails and rough skin on heels or even walking around the house without slippers on at times. I still believe these are the main suspects but I am monitoring the situation.

    The holes in underwear are tears and they are mostly just above seams. These could have been caused by the washing machine, or they could just normal be wear and tear. Again I’m monitoring the situation.

    It is easy to blame the washing machine but a substantial amount of damage to laundry is caused by normal wear and tear, overloading the washing machine, washing woollens and silks in biological detergents, or spinning some fabrics on too fast a spin speed etc. – all of which I’ve covered in my articles here. But there remains an increaasingly large percentage of people who are getting their laundry damaged and holed in situations that cannot be explained away so easily. In particular, many people are having holes appear in their cotton T-shirts and other cotton items that are perfectly capable of being spun at full speed. Some are virtually new items not yet subject to wear and tear and so washing machines are still suspects in many cases.

    As more people contribute to this topic it increases the chance that a pattern may emerge.

  11. avatar Karen Wilkinson says:

    I am reading this website amazed. I have been having this problem with my tee-shirts the last couple of years. ALL my cotton tee-shirts end up with a collection of small holes at the bottom of the front of the shirt. Today is the last straw which has lead to my looking it up on the web and finding you lot!! Today I am wearing a brand new white tee-shirt from GAP. I have never worn it before, it is new yesterday. I have just looked down and found 3 holes at the bottom of the front. Can somebody PLEASE explain this to me? It’s driving me crazy!

  12. Just found this forum after doing a search on Google. I am having exactly the same problem with my washing. Small holes in clothes, mainly tee shirt type material. I have a 6KG machine, 1200 rpm. I am going to write to the manunfactuer about this problem as it’s totally unacceptable, not to mention expensive! Will post the reply, if I get one! :-/

  13. If anyone wants to email me photos of their damaged laundry I will put them up on Washerhelp and start to compile a helpful record of the holes ( andy@washerhelp.co.uk )

  14. I’m not crazy! We’re currently renting, so I’m not familiar with the life of our current washer/dryer. For several months now I’ve been finding small holes in clothing – mostly in cotton t-shirt type material. At first I assumed it was something I was doing wrong. So, I no longer buy any off brand detergent. I’ve been careful to wash on the right speeds and not fill the tub too full. The holes remain and they appear even in clothing worn only once. I know the holes were not there prior to washing. Some of the holes are small and some almost look like small tear. It doesn’t seem to matter what brand of clothing – Old Navy, Target, Aeropostale, GAP. This is frustrating!

  15. Kristin, thanks for your input. You said it’s a washer dryer and described the items affected, but what is the drum capacity size and the top spin speed?

  16. The washer is a Kenmore 80 Series. Where do I find the other info? I’m renting so don’t have paperwork on this.

  17. We have a Hotpoint Aquarius 1200 washing machine, bought from a reconditioner in late 1998. I don’t know the drum size, I would guess it’s a standard small one, and the max spin speed is 1200 although we normally use 1100 or 1000.

    It’s been great with no problems at all until a year or so ago when small holes started appearing in the front of my wife’s t-shirts. She stopped wearing a beloved pair of jeans because she thought they were to blame.

    Unfortunately the holes kept appearing, exclusively in stretchy cotton but on sleeves and the back as well as the front. Usually it’s one or two holes per garment, each torn and about 1-2mm across. My wife reports the machine has also become noisier, although we’ve also moved it so that may be a factor.

    From my very limited knowledge of washing machines, I suspect the bearings have worn, bringing the inner drum into contact with the outer drum – does this sound plausible? In any case it isn’t only new machines. We’re now planning to replace the washing machine and were thinking of a bigger drum to wash duvets, but are worried we might find the same problem with a new one!

  18. avatar Rebecca Noble says:

    I too have the same problem – mostly with T shirt type clothing and one or two holes in each garment – this is so annoying – lots of decent new tops are ruined – I called the manufacturer today and have arranged a service visit – we have a Bosch with a 6KG drum and 1200 spin speed – have tried all spin speeds and different load sizes – most of the holes are around the bottom of garmetn but not all (some on sleeves). Has anyone else called out a manufacturer and had them agree that the washing machine is at fault ?- I dont want to have to pay for their service visit and can guess that they will say it is not the machine at fault but I have eliminated everything else and know it is.

  19. Kristin: Your machine isn’t a UK one so I don’t have any info on it. Thanks for the photos. I’ll link to them shortly.

    Andrew: Yes, if drum bearings wear badly the drum can scrape on the heating element and outer tub.

  20. My friend has just pointed out holes in the top back of my t-shirt material tunic. I have noticed small holes in the t-shirts of my sons and husband but thought that they must have caught them or done something to cause the holes. I bought a new Zanussi washing machine 1400 spin with 7kg capacity. I am sure that the washing machine is to blame.

  21. This sounds way too familiar! We are having exactly the same problems, holes in clothing for the last year or so. We actually find items wedged in the gap between the door and the seal, which when released have the holes and snagging. I emailed the manufacturer who said we would need to get a service engineer out as the machine (waher/dryer) is out of warranty. We have decided after the most recent incident yesterday to no longer use our machine, it is almost 10 years old so guess it’s time for a new one, rather than pay to get it repaired. Some basic/cheaper items, like vests and pillow cases have been ruined, other quite expensive tops and t-shirts also. Does anyone know if these items would be covered via home insurance for accidental damage?

  22. Thanks for your contribution Lisa. If you have accidental damage insurance you may well be covered but it wouldn’t be worth claiming unless expensive clothing was damaged as most people have at least a 50 excess on their policy. Some clothing of course can cost a lot of money so it may be appropriate to try to claim in some situations. If by any chance the insurer said damage from the washing machine isn’t covered you could tell them the damage was caused by you accidentally overloading it.

    Washer dryers have long had a reputation for damaging clothing if overloaded because of the vent at the top of the door seal where the hot air is pumped in on tumble dry. Clothes caught between the lip of the drum and the door seal can get dragged up to the vent at the top of the door seal and get damaged. It’s especially important not to overload a washer dryer for this reason.

  23. Good news, my insurers have agreed an amount to cover our damaged clothing – result! Think we may have to use this towards a new machine. I know you don’t like to specify/mention makes and models, but any advice before we chose a new model would be really helpful. Not sure we really need another washer/dryer, just a good, decent reliable machine that won’t cost the earth!
    Thanks for your help and advice so far.

  24. Thanks Lisa. I have extensive advice about buying washing machines and the best makes to buy on Washerhelp although it does need some time to check out properly Buying washing machnes advice

    Off the top of my head, makes of washing machine I currently rate are Miele, Siemens, Electrolux-AEG, Bosh, Zanussi, LG.

  25. I have an LG washing machine, that I’ve had for almost 5 yrs. I only started experiencing the holes about one year ago or less. Prior to that I never had any problems. I have ruled out anything else that it could be. It’s always cotton t-shirts, from any member of the family, generally one hole per garment. Often at least a couple garments per load are affected. I finally hit the roof this past weekend and stopped using the machine, as I can’t stand to continue to see our good clothing ruined. The machine is 7kg capacity and max spin speed is 1200. I use the “cotton” cycle for all the items that get affected (this never happens on other cycles and with other types of clothing), which on my machine spins at a default of 800, so compared to what I’ve read here, that’s much slower than what most people are spinning at when they experience the same problem.
    After reading all these comments, I’m not sure if it’s worth having someone come out to check it or not…